Dr. Michael Thompson, UC Foundation Associate Professor of History, published his book entitled Working on the Dock of the Bay: Labor and Enterprise in an Antebellum Southern Port with the University of South Carolina Press in 2015, and has since received outstanding reviews from top scholars in the field.
Here’s a sample:
“Thompson’s meticulously researched book is an outstanding work of social history. His moving of urban workers from the periphery to the center of Charleston’s story is a role model for discovering the lives of those often ignored in histories of the Old South. He describes brilliantly the activities and activism of black and white waterfront workers, indicating clearly the vital nature of their contribution to the antebellum southern economy. Ultimately, he highlights that to understand the successes [and] failures of post-Civil War Reconstruction one must begin in the fluid race and class relations of the pre-War era.”—David Gleeson, professor of American history, Northumbria University
“Meticulous research, lively writing, and balanced interpretations distinguish Michael Thompson’s original and revealing history of Charleston’s antebellum dockworkers, black and white, enslaved and free. At the intersection of Atlantic commerce and harvests of rice and cotton, the city’s dock workers funneled goods, ideas, and hopes into and out of the antebellum South, as this fine work of historical craftsmanship discloses.”—Michael P. Johnson, professor of history, Johns Hopkins University
“A uniquely illuminating antebellum study, Thompson’s exploration of Charleston’s waterfront culture shows the complex mosaic of working class life. In this important and highly contested sliver of the urban landscape, various struggles between masters, slaves, employers, and working class whites unfold with far-reaching implications for every aspect of life. Thoughtful and deeply researched, this work is essential for anyone interested in the nineteenth century urban South.”—Bernard Powers, professor of history, College of Charleston
“Offering a worker’s-eye view, Michael D. Thompson skillfully guides readers through a maze of cotton bales and rice barrels to discover the social geography of Charleston’s busy waterfront. With empathy and insight, Thompson reveals the potent interplay of race and class in the functioning of the port. The book is a testament to the power of diligent archival research to recover America’s working-class history.”—Seth Rockman, associate professor of history, Brown University
“Michael D. Thompson brings the antebellum Charleston waterfront to life. His book meticulously reconstructs the worlds of slave and free black laborers, their white employers, and new immigrants; it also highlights attempts of state legislators and municipal officials to restrict black freedom through law and showcases black workers’ relentless efforts to exercise autonomy and evade slavery’s inhuman strictures. This is an important and original work of southern, labor, and African-American history.”—Eric Arnesen, professor of history, The George Washington University